Authenticity and Sincerity
Don’t you hate it when something you love, becomes over-used, common, perverted, and loses its aura? Maybe a favourite food you ate too regularly? An item of clothing you wore too often? A return trip to a special place that’s no longer special.
For me, I have that experience around the word ‘authentic’. Early in my ministry, it was an ideal that I appealed to regularly. Sermons needed to be biblical and real. Youth and young adult gatherings needed to have an authentic vibe. Dynamic faith was not about playing charades or rehearsing tired old routines.
For me, the word 'authentic' has become toxic. Bastardised. I can’t stand its new meaning. ‘Authentic’ now means something like “being true to who I am”. Inauthentic, the opposite, is about me conforming to your expectations. Me changing so you will like me more. That is not genuine. It’s not real, not authentic.
‘Authentic’ is now self-referential. I measure the true me against me. I am not meant to be shaped or influenced by you, or others. I am at my best when I am being me.
We read in 1 Corinthians 9 that Paul is a Jew to Jews, Gentile to Gentiles, and weak to the weak. How fake is that? Paul is, by modern measures, a people pleaser. A chameleon. He is not authentic.
And yet he is on to something. A person is not measured against themselves. It is a higher calling, a higher blessing, to become all things to all people to save some. People are their best selves when they trust and reflect God.
Calvin puts it like this: "For, until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings so that naught is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity." — Institutes, I.2.1
Sincerity towards God, not authenticity of self – now that is a virtue.
Rev David Rietveld
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